Carol Green Ungar

The New York Times on Yeshivas — A Warning to Us All

I read the New York Times article almost as soon as it came out. It was critical — what would one expect? — but it was calm, even temperate.

Not the comments. They are wicked.

To date, this piece has scored 200. Anyone who cares about the Jewish future in New York and, dare I say, the Diaspora. should have a look.

Here’s one of the milder ones–

From MI.

Public dollars should not be spent on institutions that discriminate between genders.

Okay, not so bad but wait.

They get worse.

Here’s Sean from Fort Lee.

Insular community cynically hoarding public monetary sources; generating justifiable public outrage, contempt.

I can almost hear the Storm Troopers coming.

And here’s Manhattan William

This is a disgrace to our state and to the children who are being harmed through no fault of their own. America is not Iran. Neither is it Israel. People are free to practice their faiths in this country, but at its heart it is a secular society and a full and comprehensive education is the right of each and every citizen, not to be abridged by the government nor by a child’s parents. We know this has been going on for years and years, this newspaper publishes article after article, and yet nothing is ever done to solve the problem. It really makes one wonder exactly how these people have been able to flout our laws, openly, for so long, which quite rightly breeds a dislike and contempt for the way in which they choose to live.

And here’s Diedre from New Jersey

I’m starting to look at this differently. From birth to death, every part of this Hasidic community is mostly funded by government money. The larger the community gets, the more money they take in. Every head is another voucher. This seems so much more nefarious than I previously considered.

This smells like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Clearly the New York Times investigation of the Hasidic school system has touched a raw nerve, but now it’s time for some soul searching.

Are we, the Orthodox keeping our side of the street clean?

. It’s a fact of human nature that the weirder you dress, the more you need to be on your best behavior if you want people to think well of you.

Here’s a little story with a huge lesson.

During his stay in Shanghai where he went to escape the Nazis,  Rabbi Ezekiel Levenstein traveled with human-driven rickshaws. While he found the use of manpower in place of horsepower contemptible, Rabbi Levenstein reasoned correctly that boycotting rickshaws would deprive their drives of the only means they had to feed their families and so he chose to build them up by thanking them profusely and tipping generously even though he wasn’t a wealthy man. And of course, he and his minions were well-liked by the Chinese rickshaw drivers.

We are different. The Hassidim in their distinctive black and white dress, the other Orthodox with their wigs, headscarves, and yarmulkas, and unusual schedules whether that means ducking out of the office early on a winter Friday, or declining to celebrate Easter and Xmas.

That difference makes us suspect. We need to know that and we need to adjust our behavior. Rabbi Levenstein’s story offers a path forward. We must rise to the occasion, and we do.. Recently the Hassidic Misaskim group staged a hearty welcome for aliens who had been bussed into NYC for Texas. That was a moment for true Jewish pride.

Can we create those moments every day?

We need to mend fences with the non-Jewish world, to demonstrate that we are good, law-abiding, contributing people, which most of us really are. We need to think hard about our polishing our collective image, and we need to act fast.

Lots of people don’t like us and we don’t want to fan the flames of antisemitism any more than they’ve already been fanned.

About the Author
Carol Ungar is a prize-winning author who writes from the Judean Hills.
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